Sunday, May 24, 2015

A new grill

I had a fairly productive day today. I had to get up early for church because we just have one service in the summer. So instead of sleeping in and going to the 11 am service, I had to be there at 10! I made it.

Then I shopped around for gas grills. We have had a charcoal grill for the past several years, and it was just getting to be a pain, especially with just the two of us. So I bought this handy, dandy little 2-burner grill at Menards. I looked at several different places, but I wanted a small grill without the side burner, and this was just perfect. It was $219, which was more than I wanted to spend but I wanted a temperature gauge, so this I thought this was pretty reasonable. It took me just under an hour to put together (rated at 50 min.). We will try it out tomorrow - Memorial Day.

 
I also mowed the lawn, took a walk, and a shower, and then Jane got home from Illinois. Oh, and I had a 2-hour nap in the afternoon.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

St. pete vacation

We have returned from a very restful week's vacation in St. Pete Beach, Florida. We stayed at the lovely Grand Plaza Hotel, and basically didn't leave the entire time we were there from Monday - Friday (twice we trekked across the street to the store). It was a very nice week in which we accomplished exactly what we set out to do: we sat on the beach every day, swam in the ocean, lazed around the hotel, and we each read a book. Here is the lowdown...

TRAVEL
We traveled by plane on the nickel-and-dime Allegiant Air. I say "nickel-and-dime" because, while the flights seem inexpensive, they add on charges for just about everything you can imagine. Still, it's hard to complain about a direct flight from Fort Wayne to St. Pete. All in all it wasn't bad. The flights were good, we had seats next to each other there and back (we had to pay extra for that) and both airports were small and relatively easy to get through. It takes right at 2 hours to get there. The St. Pete airport has some serious issues though. You have to wait forever for your luggage, and don't even get me started on getting from the arrival area to the luggage area. They have these stupid door/tubes that only allow a few people to exit at a time. It was insane. Still, the flights were good, the weather was nice, and it was way better than driving as far as I'm concerned.

When we arrived in St. Pete we used a car service the hotel recommended. "Sam" picked us up at the airport in a nice Lincoln Towne car. He was nice, and it was a good ride, but I thought $60 (plus $10 more for a tip) was a little pricey. When we returned to the airport on Friday we just used the BAT Taxi service that is across the street from the hotel. It was a flat $39 to the airport, and I gave the guy $50 because it was a good ride and he was a super nice guy.

We left home Monday afternoon and arrived in St. Pete around 7:30-8 pm. On the way home, we left the hotel when we had to check out at 11 am. We had lunch at the airport, and our flight left at 2:15 pm. We arrived in Ft. Wayne at 4:15, got our luggage, our car (we parked the Buick at the airport - $36), and were home by 5 pm. Travel was great!

THE HOTEL
Street view of the Grand Plaza
The Grand Plaza is far from the nicest hotel in the area, but it had everything we needed, and then some. It is a 20-25 minute drive from the airport, and sits right on the lovely St. Pete beach on the Gulf of Mexico. It has three restaurants, a pool, and our room was very nice. We were actually in a 2-room suite. It had a kitchen/living room area in one room, and the bedroom had 1 king bed and 1 full bed. Both rooms had a balcony with chairs. Again, not the fanciest of rooms, but I have no complaints.

One of the restaurants is on the top of the 12-story hotel. We took the glass elevator up one night, but did not eat there. We did eat 3 meals a day at the other 2 restaurants though. We had the breakfast buffet every morning at the Palm Room - opting to sit outdoors ocean-side and sip our coffee and chow our bacon and eggs. What a great way to start the day. For lunch and dinner we ate every meal at Bongo's Beach Bar & Grille. The food and drinks were good, and it is rated one of the best beach bar & grille's on the Gulf. They have live music every afternoon and night, and give free shooters when the sun sets every night. We probably spent more money there than we should have, but we only ate the 3 meals each day (no snacks all week), and it's hard to beat sitting outside right on the beach and enjoying an ocean view while dining. No complaints about the food.

Sunset view from Bongo's.

Another nice thing about this hotel is that it likely has fewer rooms than many of the nicer ones, therefore we never had to wait very long for the elevator. We've had that problem at other places we've stayed. There were two elevators, and since we were only on the 3rd floor, we often took the stairs too.

View from our room.


THE BEACH
Sunset on the beach
The beach was absolutely the BEST we've probably ever been to. It was wide and has a beautiful white sand. It doesn't burn your feet, nor stick to you either. We rented a cabana every day, and they were pretty cheap at $25 for a full day. We usually hit the beach around 10 am and stayed there until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. The Gulf water is a turquoise-ish green and was really calm compared to many places we've been. Jane spent more time in the water than I did - I mostly tried to hide from the sun as much as I could, but did manage to burn the top of my feet slightly. The sand was very nice even in the water. The floor of the ocean was as calm as the waves. There were no rocks, and very little seaweed. The best beach we've ever visited.

THE ANIMALS
A bonus was the chance to see some wildlife. I could do without the birds that are all over - especially the time we saw 2 of them "going at it" (having sex) right in front of us.

I didn't care much for the stingray either. When we checked in they taught us how to do the "stingray shuffle," because they like to hang out in shallow water this time of year. Supposedly they will only sting you if you step on them, so you're supposed to shuffle your feet when walking in the water. I guess that signals them to move or something. However, one day when I was heading back to shore I had several of them swimming in circles around me! I did not like that.

The "bonus" animal, though, were the dolphins! We had no idea we would be treated to a dolphin show several times a day, every day! They would swim and jump not far from shore every morning and afternoon. One time when Jane was in the water by herself they swam not too far from her. That was pretty cool.

THE BOOKS
As far as reading... I completed Christopher McDougall's 352-page Natural Born Heroes, and Jane finished Rachel Held Evans's Searching For Sunday. I really liked my book. While it was largely about ultra-distance running and various other health/fitness ideas, I also learned more about WW II and Greek Mythology than I've probably ever known before. It was both interesting and inspiring to me. I will likely have more blog posts about it in the future.

Jane really enjoyed Rachel's book. It's not at all anti-church, but very much one person's desire to find 'the church' with some form of depth beyond "chubby bunny" games and rah-rah events. Though it is probably written for a younger crowd (more our kids' ages), Jane said it fit pretty well with our story too. I will likely take a gander at it eventually.

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN
So, now the trip is over and it's back to real life. After getting in last night, Jane had to get up early this morning and leave for Illinois with Carrie and the kids. They are helping throw my nephew's fiance a wedding shower, so poor Jane doesn't get much rest. I have been left here to journal our latest adventure on the blog, and purchase a gas grill before Monday.

All in all, a very nice, relaxing, and somewhat inspiring vacation. While it seemed to go by too quick, and I spent a lot of it wishing I were back home, it was time and money well spent in my humble opinion. I feel pretty blessed to have these adventures, and someone to experience them with.

The night sky was phenomenal.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mowing

Yes, I did mow today. On the highest setting. Hard to believe how bad it needed it already.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

On vacation

I am on vacation this week and have nothing planned for the blog. Sometimes I will schedule posts in advance, but this time... notta. So, unless something comes up and I happen across a computer, this will be it for awhile.

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to stay married for 32 years

Yesterday was our 32nd wedding anniversary. We celebrated it pretty much like we celebrate life in general - together. We exchanged cards, and Jane got me the new Christopher McDougall book Natural Born Heroes. After we both worked a full day, we went out for supper last night at the Phoenix. We'd never been there, but had heard good things about it. It was nice. They had good food and a nice duo providing live music. A perfect evening.

Of course we had many congratulations on the achievement of 32 years of marriage on Facebook and in person. I had a few people - whether seriously or joking - ask me something along the lines of, "So how did you manage to stay married to the same person for that long?" I think what they actually meant was - how did my wife manage to put up with me for that long?! So I started thinking about it...

MARRIAGE IS NOT THE POINT

At first I kind of felt like, "Well, it's not really that big of a deal. Lots of people stay married that long and longer." A lot of them are pretty miserable though. That's the first thing I believe is significant about our marriage - we're not just married, but we still enjoy being together. It doesn't matter if we're going out on the town, plopped in front of the TV, or simply shopping for groceries... there is still no one else I would rather do it with than my bride of 32 years. We are not just married, we are a "couple." Somehow she has put up with me, and I have put up with her, and we haven't grown tired of one another. Somehow.

MARRY UP

So, the first real piece of advice I could think of was: Marry "up." Find someone better than yourself; someone with the capacity to love you in spite of yourself; someone who is kind and gentle and who likes to laugh. It seems every couple has one partner that others like to be around, and the other one is tolerated. I knew a long time ago that I was the one people tolerated, and I lucked out in finding someone that others respect and want to be around.

However, all that said, there are some dangers in marrying "up." The "better" person could realize just how much of an idiot you are, and decide THEY want to marry up. More than that, though, is the fact that... no matter how special your significant other is... they are still human. Everyone has their faults. So this piece of advice isn't always valid. In fact, I've known some couples whom I thought were both "uppers" and things didn't work out. So... who knows.

GOD'S GRACE

Eventually I determined that the real reason we've been able to stay happily married for this long is because we both committed our lives to following Jesus as best as we could. It's not just about the two of us, but the Three of us (or 5, if you count the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit separately). When we got married there were not just a few people who said it wouldn't last. In many respects, it probably shouldn't have. There have been a number of justifiable reasons for us to go our separate ways. Yet, for some strange reason, here we are. And I really do believe it is nothing short of a miracle of God that we have survived, let alone thrived.

Again, though, I can think of numerous other couples who were probably more godly than we are... and things didn't work out for them. I'm not sure how to reconcile that in my mind. I don't know why God has chosen to bless us with a long marriage and not do so for others.

THANKFUL

Ultimately, I guess I really don't know how to stay married for 32 years. I don't know how we have done it. But I know I feel blessed that God has chosen to intervene for us on occasion and somehow keep us together. I also know that love is a precious and precarious thing, and it can vanish as quickly as it comes - sometimes with no warning or reason. A good long marriage takes a lot of work and an even greater amount of humility, but more than that it takes something else... And I don't really know what that is. So I just thank God and thank my lovely wife. That's about all I can do.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mowing

I mowed the yard when I got home from work yesterday. It was nice and tall after getting a lot of rain lately. I went back to the highest setting on the old mower. I think I want to keep mowing it on that setting until later this summer or maybe early fall.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Things I want to do (intentionality)

I've read several things lately dealing with how to make sure we spend our time doing the things we really want to do - as opposed to things other people want us to do. Sometimes we can even be our own worst enemy because we simply don't establish in our own mind those things that are most important to us. We need to be intentional about prioritizing our time. So, here are some of the things I would like to spend my time doing.

  • Reading - I don't do it as much as I used to, but I would like to read a variety of things - most notably more biblical type reading. One reason is to keep my mind working, but another is because I believe it helps in writing.
  • Writing - I am a terrible writer, but I enjoy doing it, and someday I hope to get better and to write something that is actually useful. For now I'm just doing it to do it.
  • Running - Another thing I haven't been doing much lately, but I really need to start again. I want to be a runner. Not a fast runner, but a runner nonetheless. So far I've run before work twice this week.
  • Playing Guitar - This isn't as much of a priority as the other three, but I would still like to do it more. I haven't much at all for the past two years. We'll see.
Running is something I need to do early in the morning. Reading needs to be done early, but not necessarily first thing. Writing can be done at some point during the day. Guitar... I dunno.

Now I need to decide what I need to eliminate in order to achieve these goals. Having a job probably isn't something I can eliminate. This is just a dream exercise anyway. I'd like to make it a reality, but if not, life will go on.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Leave curiosity alone

In my devotional reading this morning I was working through chapter 7 in the Renovare spiritual formation guide 'Connecting With God.' This chapter is on 'Seeking God In Silence.' They begin with a snippet from Thomas A Kempis's 'The Imitation of Christ.' The second sentence was this odd phrase...
Leave curiosity alone.

I found this quite interesting. I think the whole idea of silence and stillness and the like is interesting in and of itself, but I'm not exactly sure what to make of these three words in particular...

At first I was like, Doesn't our creativity come from God? Aren't we to be a seeking lot? But then my mind shifted to the garden... Eve's curiosity. I was soon reminded of so many things that I myself have 'dreamed up'... even in my attempt to draw closer to God, or, worse... to try to grow his church. Ugh.

I actually used to pride myself on my ability to pray for long periods of time; to sit in silence all day every day; to really seek after God. Certainly I am capable of silence. Seeking after God in silence is a little trickier though. I don't know, maybe I am okay in this area. Who knows. I think whether I am or not is not the point.

The exercise for the week was twofold. First, it was to avoid idle conversation and gossip. There are so many things we talk about, that really, what difference does it make? A second exercise was to try to spend 10 minutes a day in silence. No TV, no radio, no phone, no looking out the window... nothing. And especially not listening to those nagging inner voices that tell us to "do this" or "do that," or that we're not good enough. Just sit silent before God.

Eventually we may come to a place - once the chatter in our head has died down - where we can actually listen to what the Spirit speaks. It could be we just fall asleep. That's okay too. It's not about our agenda; it's about placing ourselves before the Creator, and just... being His.

So... I've been thinking about that. I fail miserably quite often. I'm pretty sure God isn't keeping score. I'm not sure why I do.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's day 2015

We had an okay Mother's Day 2015 (I guess it's not really my call). We slept in and went to church at Grace. As usual, we shared a table with Drew Carrie and the Kurtz's. Afterward us and the Feipels went to Toscani's for pizza. It was Jane's idea, and it was a good one because they have really good pizza. Unfortunately they have the worst service. The servers are bad, the kitchen is slow, you would think they've never had customers before. It took 2 hours to get and eat a pizza. But it was good. We all went home, then Jane and Carrie went shopping. I took a nap and then met Jane at the movie theater for the 6 pm showing of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a good way to pass some time. Then we went and bought some groceries and son Isaac called Jane to wish her a happy Mother's Day and to tell her he would be going along to my nephew Kyle's wedding in Minnesota later this summer. So we went home and Jane made his airline reservations. Then we watched the end of the A.D. mini-series, and two episodes of Seinfeld. That was the day.

I got Jane Rachel Held Evans' new book 'Searching for Sunday.' Isaac and Ricci got her a neat picture holder with several picture/post-cards. Carrie and the grandkids made her a big picture of butterflies made out of their feet. They were all pretty neat gifts and I think Jane really liked them.

I called my mom a couple times, and left a message, but never talked to her. She was at my sisters in Minnesota, and it was also college graduation for her son Kyle. So she had a pretty big day up there.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

First soccer practice

Little Anna had her first soccer practice today. I went along with Carrie to help watch the boys. It was pretty fun. She finally peaked out of her shell a little and followed along. She also looked pretty cute out there.

I forget what league this is, but it is at the soccer fields at Concordia Seminary. They have a bunch of fields, and there were tons of people there. When we checked her in Anna received a shirt, socks, and a soccer ball with her name on it.

The nice thing about this league is... as a 4-year-old, first-time player, they only have 5 weeks of practice. And it is entirely instructional. They don't play games yet. They just learn how to dribble, to not use their hands, to listen for the whistle, and a few other basics. So it's not too overwhelming, but they do learn some skills. As they progress they teach them different things.

At first she didn't participate real well - she is so shy. Eventually they got her to put her ball down, then to kick it, and pretty soon she was dribbling up and down the field with the other kids. She did pretty good at that by the end, and even kicked the ball into the net when they did that. She was pretty tentative when they played some games designed to get the kids running around though. She likes order, and the chaos of kids running around was a bit much. All in all she did really great though.

Here are some pics (she is #4, in the pink socks)...




Friday, May 08, 2015

Mowing and a ballgame

I mowed the yard after work last night. It was fairly warm - 80's - and I worked up a good sweat. I mowed on the 2nd to the highest notch. I like that height.

Afterward I went to a Tincaps game. Jane was getting her hair done, so I went by myself. I had 2 tacos for supper ($4), and later I had a small bag of popcorn. I wished I'd resisted the popcorn. Ugh. I parked in the same spot we parked in the last time we went to a game - on the far side of the library along the street. Weird how that same spot was open both times. Anyway, I left in the bottom of the 7th inning. There was a good sized crowd, but it wasn't packed. I think the lawn was sold out. I didn't see anyone I knew, but I actually sat in my seat most of the game and just spaced out.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

It's all good (and stuff)

I can remember there being several years when I felt like I was right in the center of God's will for my life (or however you want to say that). Life was good. I felt like I was MADE to be a small church pastor. I believed I was right where God wanted me to be. The fact that things didn't work out - or didn't end so well - does not diminish that truth (at least in my opinion).

I have taken a boatload of personality profiles, leadership tests, and whatnot... and I always seem to fall pretty close to center, or even, or in that smallest of small minorities that can't really be described by test results. Even when it comes to being an introvert or extrovert... it's hard to distinguish which way I lean. The several times I've taken the APEST test, I have very little variance between the five. I've always attributed part of this to being ambidextrous, even though I have no idea if it's true or not, but that is also what I believe made me such a perfect fit as a small church pastor. I wasn't really good at any one thing, but I was "okay" in a lot of areas. Lately I've been thinking about "fit" quite differently though.

Occasionally I will have someone ask me if I'm "ready to get back into ministry." I know what they mean. They want to know if I'm ready to be a pastor in a church again. It's kind of strange, but I honestly don't even think in those terms anymore. In fact, I don't really think I've ever STOPPED doing ministry. Yes, my occupation has changed; my context has changed; but I don't believe my relational approach to other people has changed all that much. I don't think *I* have changed all that much in that regard either.

It's like the deal with being missional. Tom and I have been talking about this for years. Some people believe "being missional" requires participation in a mission community, or that you have to have a project, or be 'doing something,' or all these other quantifier/qualifiers. I agree with Tom in that missional is simply how we live out our faith and participate in the reconciliation of all things with God - IN OUR EVERYDAY LIVES: in our families, at work, in our activities and whatnot. It's not something SEPARATE that we do; it is A PART OF us and what we naturally do.

So when I think about the prospect of coaching people - whether I'm coaching a church pastor or an atheist - I approach them from the same mindset of helping them find their inner self; their true calling; their God-given nature, if you will. And, while my skill-set used to lend itself more to doing that in a small-church context, I believe I can adapt to any and all contexts I find myself in in the Kingdom of God. The point is seeing life as kingdom-centric rather than church-centric. The context is different (kingdom instead of church) but none of the rules change - at least in my mind.

Eh... I'm not putting this into words very good. But I have felt myself moving towards this for a long time. I believe I was doing exactly what I was made to do for several years while I was pastoring a small church. That time has come and gone. I knew for several years I was being "called elsewhere," so to speak. I just didn't have the guts to follow God's leading. I believe I am still serving in full-time ministry, albeit without the occupational title. In fact, I could possibly be even more full-time than I used to - I no longer have the stress of trying to turn "on" and "off."

Well, the longer this gets, the cloudier I seem to be making it. I should probably just stop. One of these days maybe I'll try to explain it to myself again. For now... I'm good. I have lots of regrets and many things can and do make me sad... but, really, I'm good. It's all good.